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Wat I Saw

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I start the day with a visit to Wat Pho near the Grand Palace. Wat Pho is known for the reclining Buddha which occupies an entire building. Leaving Wat Pho, a man approaches and tells me that the Grand Palace is closed. I know he is lying. He also tells me that there is a Turtle exhibit which is special and today only at a Wat across the river. He then tells me to be sure I only ride on Tuk Tuks with a yellow license plate. And lo and behold, a Tuk Tuk driver pops his head up.

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Tortoises sounds cool so I walk over the bridge to the Khao Mor cemetery which is part of Wat Prayoon. The Khao Mor cemetery is lovely and filled with tortoises. You can buy sliced banana, rolls, and other bits of food to feed the tortoises which several at the site were doing. The central piece of the cemetery is a large rocky structure with cremated remains along with pictures on display. I am told by a man there that people rent space from the Wat for a year at a time for display of departed dear ones.

Wat Prayoon is different than the others in one very distinct way — it’s thrifty design and lack of colorful details and spires. The entire Wat is white though it keeps the distinctive bell shape to the main structures. To enter the Wat, you pass through a Buddha image museum. The Thai people believe that feet are unclean and shoes are even more unclean so any time you are entering a Wat structure or entering the presence of a Buddha, you remove your shoes. I remove my shoes and enter the museum through a door opened by a lone guard. I appreciate the various Buddha images and slowly walk the space absorbing what I can. Without words, again because of no shared language, the guard indicates I should enter the Wat and walk around. Around back, he suggests I go up the stairs. I climb the stairs and find a raised center loop to walk. As I reach the front side of the loop, a symbol crash rings through the air and I cannot help but laugh at the joy and wonder dripping through the air.

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I walk to the nearby Wat Kantayanamit which, unlike Wat Prayoon, is bustling with people in worship. I feel unsure if I should enter any of the spaces and I brave forward. No one seems to mind my presence and I try to keep myself as subdued and respectful as a farang can be. A gentleman there gives me some information on the various statues and that the women in the temple are doing a sort of ‘mock monk’ ritual with cut hair and white robes.

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From there I walk to Wat Arun which has the most intricate and detailed decorations I have seen to date. The temple itself is also steeper than any I have been to and they allow visitors to climb the monument. I am a little surprised by this since it is steep enough to give many some difficulty, if nothing more than fear, on descent. It appears that most that could never make it up and down recognize that at the start and never try. I do wonder if anyone has been stuck up there or taken a bad fall since it is generally easier to climb up than down.

I figure now is a good time to see the Grand Palace as originally planned. I walk there, walk in, and am informed that I need pants to enter. Sigh. I decide to not rent their clothes and instead return tomorrow. I head over to the National Museum of Bangkok and enjoy the displays of history, kings, and artifacts.

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